Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – February 10, 2017

One year after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all school systems must ring their first bell after the Labor Day holiday, Delaware and Pennsylvania are in the process of trying to do the same thing.

I have long thought the significance of the governor’s mandate — aimed at adding an extra week, or weeks in some cases, to the traditional summer season — would center on if other states followed Maryland’s lead. To me, the impacts for Ocean City from an economic standpoint will be muted somewhat unless other states where tourists hail from enact some sort of similar measure.

If Pennsylvania — the state most represented in Ocean City’s tourism base — were to enact a similar post-Labor Day school start requirement, the holiday weekend would see a huge bump. Over the last decade, the weekend signifying the end of the summer season has become largely weather dependent. Even when Mother Nature does cooperate, it’s typically a lot lighter these days than it was many years ago.

The issue with the Delaware and Pennsylvania efforts is the changes are being sought through the legislature. Due to lobbying efforts from state superintendents and individuals school boards, the chances are slim they will be passed by legislators. In Maryland, the post-Labor Day school start bills never got serious consideration in the General Assembly and most likely would have never passed due to special interest opposition. That’s why Hogan went the executive order route. He knew he couldn’t get it through the legislature.

As of now, there does not appear to be the same commitment from the governors in Pennsylvania and Delaware. It’s a process worth following in the coming months, however.

It’s not surprising to see the results of a consultant’s study return a negative view on an indoor ice arena in Worcester County and the hopes of it hosting a minor league hockey team. There’s just too much competition from other facilities nearby, too many concerns about attendance for the hockey games, too small of a population base to serve and too much risk involved.

On the topic of a proposed new arena, the report summarizes, “Market research suggests that while the proposed new arena may potentially be able to attract a professional minor league hockey team, and potentially a second tenant team such as a soccer, football or basketball team, overall demand for other event activity such as concerts, family shows, and other sporting events is moderate at best. In addition, the amount and type of programming combined with market and industry dynamics may not support the desired long-term economics associated with the proposed new arena.”

While the outcome may not have found a market for the arena, the study does provide some interesting insights on the area. Most notably is the confirmation that there’s a dearth of outdoor recreation fields currently to serve the area’s youth. Anyone who has young kids involved in sports knows full well this is the case. Consequently, a group of local parents are currently developing a large complex west of Berlin to address the area’s shortage. There’s no time table on that at this point, however. The fact plans are underway for more fields among the private sector were enough to give the consultant crafting the study reason for caution despite seeing the need.

“This increase in supply would allow the County to better accommodate and grow its existing, local-based recreational programs as well as to attract incremental new sports competitions/tournaments that generate economic and fiscal impacts to the community. The proposed new outdoor sports field complex could serve a diverse set of demand generators at varying levels of competitions/tournaments. Offering multipurpose fields will allow the facility to host multiple sports such as lacrosse, soccer, rugby, and ultimate Frisbee that mitigates the reliance on a particular sport. As previously noted, the competitive supply of facilities is continuing to change,” the report says. “It is our understanding through primary and secondary sources that there are potential plans for additional fields to be developed by the private sector in Worcester County, Wicomico County and in White Marsh. In addition, the Delaware Sports Complex in Middletown and the DE Turf Sports Complex in Frederica are currently constructing multiple fields that will further increase the supply for tournament activity in the region. Tournament promoters/producers did express a concern regarding the potential of oversaturation of the Mid-Atlantic market. As such, the County and the MSA may want to consider a phased approach to the development of a new outdoor sports field complex.”

Some “Vanishing Ocean City” submissions hit home more than others. As someone who grew up in downtown Ocean City, this week’s column about B.B. Bombers brought back a lot of memories.

I remember walking into the store on 8th Street clueless one summer looking to buy some Churchill fins and a body board with money I had saved busing tables at old Captain’s Table. Mr. Jack was there to help size me like he was for so many others, including those he taught surf etiquette to during his free camps. Hundreds of locals fondly recall that little tucked away surf shop.

Now if only I could fit into the B.B. Bombers T-shirts I spent summers in 30 years ago.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.